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A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance Premiums

What is a premium?

To benefit from insurance coverage, you’ll need to pay a premium. A premium is a payment to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. Insurance companies determine your premium by deciding what the risk is to insure you. Here’s a breakdown of the basics to help you understand what a premium is, why you have to pay it, how it works and ways to reduce your costs.

What Is a Premium?

An insurance premium is effectively the cost of your insurance, whether for health, auto or life insurance. Most companies allow you to pay the annual premium via monthly installments. However, some companies may require you to pay your premium on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis. Some may even want the entire insurance premium up front. Companies often decide they want the insurance premium up front if you have previously had your insurance policy canceled for non-payment.

The price of a premium is usually decided by an actuary or underwriter who takes a base calculation. The base calculation determines what the risk is to insure you. After the base calculation, the company may discount it based on your health, driving record, location and other personal details. This is all based on the type of insurance you’re looking to secure, too.

Your premium may also be determined based on your insurance history. Every insurance company uses different criteria to determine premiums. Some companies use insurance scores based on personal factors like credit rating, car accident frequency, personal claims history and occupation. If your personal factors are attractive to certain companies, you may want to secure a plan with one of them. It could mean a lower cost premium.

You may also pay more money for higher amounts of coverage, whether you’re purchasing life insurance, car insurance, health insurance or any other kind of insurance.

The value and condition of what you are insuring can also change the amount of coverage you need. For example, if you’re a healthy 28-year-old with no kids, your life insurance premium may be very inexpensive because you might not need a large policy. However, the price could increase as you age and your health and family situations change because you may need more coverage.

How Can You Lower Your Rates?

What is a premium?

The type of coverage you purchase affects your premium. If you get more comprehensive coverage with your insurance policy, it may raise your insurance premium. For example, if you insure your vehicle for all risks, you may have to pay more than if you insured it with a policy that doesn’t include collision coverage.

Deductibles can reduce your insurance premiums, as well. An insurance deductible is the cost you pay before the insurance company pays anything. If your car is insured and you have a $1,000 deductible, you have to pay $1,000 before the insurance company will begin to cover any costs. If there are $3,000 in damages to your vehicle, you would have to pay $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the other $2,000. As a general rule, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.

In the case of health insurance, taking on a higher deductible, higher co-pays or longer waiting periods may lower your costs. However, if you can afford a plan with a lower deductible, you may want to take that. Lower deductible health plans offer customers more predictable prices for higher amounts of coverage.

Your homeowners insurance premium may be affected by the coverage limits you choose, your deductible amount, optional coverages you select, your home’s age and condition, your claims history and your credit rating.

Car insurance premiums may be affected by your age, your credit score, your driving record, the age of your car, the type of coverage you chose, coverage limits you select, where you live and drive, and how often you drive.

Your life insurance premium may be affected by the amount of life insurance coverage you buy, the type of life insurance policy you select, the length of your policy, and your age, health, and life expectancy.

Insurance Limits

Some companies, specific policies or types of coverage have insurance limits. An insurance limit is the maximum amount of money the company will pay. Typically, the higher your insurance limit, the higher your premium. It’s also the inverse of a deductible. You pay the part of the claim or claims that’s more than the limit on your policy.

Insurance limits can be on a per occurrence basis or on an aggregate basis. For example, a per occurrence basis could be a $20,000 insurance limit on bodily injuries per person, per car accident. An aggregate insurance limit might be a $100,000 limit on construction costs in the event of a natural disaster.

Car Insurance

Car insurance laws and policies typically list liabilities as a set of three numbers that stand for the coverage limits when you’re responsible for an accident. If your numbers were 22/66/15, your insurance would cover $22,000 for bodily injuries per person, $66,000 in total bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 for property damage per accident. For personal injury protection, collision and comprehensive coverage, the numbers are listed as a single amount for each type of coverage. Your state may have specific minimum limits for certain coverages, so make sure you’re getting a fair rate.

Health Insurance

Healthcare laws often change, and many lifetime and annual health insurance limits are illegal. However, some health insurance policies still list annual limits or limits on the number of times certain treatments will be covered, such as acupuncture, chiropractic services and orthotics. Companies may also place limits on prescription medication to keep costs down. There may be policies such as “step therapy,” which requires you to try less expensive drugs first, or quantity limits, such as only covering 30 pills in 30 days.

Homeowners Insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy will often list separate limit amounts for different types of coverage. The limit amounts for liability coverage – in case you’re sued by someone for property damage or injuries that occur on your property – may be different than the limit amount for damage to your home and personal property. Make sure you review all of your homeowners insurance coverage limits, such as the amount it may cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage), liability coverage and personal property coverage.

Shopping Around

What is a premium?

It’s important to shop around for insurance because different companies have different target clients. You may be the target client for one company, but not for another. That means your premium may be lower with one company than another. The price you pay for your insurance may include taxes or fees, as well. And these could differ from company to company. Before shopping around, call your insurance company and see if they’re willing to lower your premium.

In addition, insurance companies may decide to pursue a new market segment. That can lower rates on a temporary basis, or on a more permanent basis if that works for the company. In either case, you can get a better deal on your insurance if you are part of the demographic that insurance company wants to attract.

The best insurance company for you may not be the best insurance company for your parents or your best friend. It all depends on your age, location and many other factors.

The Bottom Line

Your insurance company will assess the financial risk of insuring you. The greater they perceive that risk to be, the more your premium will cost. It’s important to make sure you let your insurance company know all the ways in which you are a low-risk or lower risk client in order to get premium reductions. After shopping around, you’ll be able to find the insurance policies that are best for your financial situation.

Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs

  • Consider all of the insurance options available based on your individual circumstances. This can help you save money. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.
  • If you need extra help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be easy. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to learn about local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance Premiums appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Do You Qualify for Any of January’s Class-Action Settlements?

The New Year brings new opportunities to seek restitution for wrongs committed in previous months and even years. Take a look at this month’s list of class-action settlements to see if any of these offers will let you add some cha-ching to your pocket as you ring in 2021.

UnityPoint Health: Data Breach

Anyone who was affected by UnityPoint Health data breaches in 2017 and 2018 may be eligible for up to $7,000 plus a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

Also known as Iowa Health System, the lawsuit claims UnityPoint was hit by a data breach that began in November 2017. The multi-hospital delivery and health care system purportedly found the ongoing breach in February 2018, but failed to notify affected persons until April or even July of 2018.

The lawsuit alleges that more than 1 million names, addresses, phone numbers, billing information and health information were exposed, costing patients and consumers time and money to cancel credit cards and fight identity theft and fraud.

UnityPoint denied wrongdoing, but agreed to a $2.8 million settlement. UnityPoint Health said it contacted all affected consumers whose personal information was exposed during the 2017 and 2018 data breaches.

File your valid claim by March 2, 2021 to receive a year of free credit monitoring and up to $1,000 in “ordinary” expenses, including a maximum of three hours of time valued at $15 per hour and documented out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the data breaches, such as postage fees and internet charges. You also may claim up to $6,000 in “extraordinary” expenses related to identity theft or fraud caused by the data breaches, including false tax returns and interest on loans you had to take out because of canceling your credit card accounts.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare: Data Breach

You could be eligible for expense reimbursement, cash payments and free credit monitoring services as the result of a $4.2 million class-action settlement.

In October 2019, Kalispell Regional Healthcare notified patients that hackers were able to access employee email accounts and used those accounts to access the personal data of patients.

In response, a lawsuit alleged Kalispell didn’t do enough to protect against hackers. The company did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle for $4.2 million.

Cyber thieves reportedly gained access to the following patient data:

  •     Names and addresses
  •     Medical record numbers
  •     Dates of birth
  •     Telephone numbers
  •     Email addresses
  •     Medical history and treatment information
  •     Dates of service
  •     Treating physicians
  •     Medical bill account numbers
  •     Health insurance information
  •     Social Security numbers

If you were notified by Kalispell Regional Healthcare that your personal information might have been compromised, you could be eligible for reimbursement of up to $15,000 in expenses related to the breach. You also may be eligible for up to five hours of time at the rate of $15 per hour.

In addition to reimbursement, you can choose between five years of Experian credit monitoring services valued at nearly $720 and an alternative cash payment of up to $100. Exact cash payment amounts will vary but will not exceed $100.

Claim forms are due by Feb. 25, 2021.

BMW: Failing Coolant Pump

If you owned or leased specific 2007 through 2019 models of BMW vehicles, you could claim up to $1,000 in reimbursements.

A class-action suit alleged the affected vehicles were equipped with electric coolant pumps that once they failed, caused engines to overheat, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. The lawsuit further alleged BMW knew of the problem but did not fix it or reimburse owners and lessees for resulting repairs.

Car owners and lessees may receive a maximum of $1,000 in out-of-pocket repair costs for parts and labor required to replace one failed electric engine coolant pump and a thermostat, if such replacement was needed within the first seven years or first 84,000 miles the vehicle was in service. In addition, BMW’s New Passenger Vehicle Limited Warranty may be extended to seven years or 84,000 miles.

BMW also will replace an electric coolant pump that fails for one year after the settlement becomes effective, no matter how old the vehicle is or how many miles it has on it.

We have the complete list of models covered and all the details you need to make a claim by the Feb. 18, 2021 deadline.

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Sports Research: Deceptive Supplement Labeling

If you bought Sports Research Corporation’s Premium MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 Complex products, you could be eligible for a portion of a settlement over allegations of deceptive labeling practices.

The premium-priced products that were labeled “packed with beneficial fats” and capable of fostering “natural” energy purportedly were falsely advertised. The MCT Oil merchandise contained 14 grams of saturated fat that did not allow it to be considered “healthy” as part of a diet. In addition, the “natural” energy supposedly induced by the use of raw coconut materials allegedly underwent processing.

The MCT Oil products were also promoted as containing antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, while the Turmeric Curcumin C3 products were marketed as anti-inflammatory products that provided antioxidant benefits.

If you bought Sports Research’s MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 products between Jan. 9, 2016 and Jan. 9, 2020, you could be eligible for either a $7 voucher to be used toward the purchase of any Sports Research product or $3 cash.

File your valid claim by Feb. 23, 2021 to receive your healthy dose of restitution.

A woman looks perplexed as she looks at her laptop screen.

Chime Digital Bank Service Disruption

Were you unable to access your Chime deposit account between Oct. 16-19, 2019 because of a service disruption? If so, you could be eligible for a portion of a $1.5 million class-action settlement.

The intermittent outage lasted for several days, according to the lawsuit, which resulted in late bill payments and disrupted purchases. The suit also says Chime failed to warn users of the outage and only communicated via Twitter.

Chime did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to the class action settlement.

Compensation is divided into two tiers. Tier one allows consumers who suffered a loss due to the service disruption to receive a cash payment up to $25 with no proof of such loss. Tier two provides payments up to $750 for those who can provide documentation.

We have all the details and how to file your claim by the Feb. 15, 2021 deadline.

BMW: Defective Timing Chain

Former owners and lessees of certain 2012 to 2015 models of BMW vehicles could be eligible for reimbursement for allegedly defective timing chain components.

A lawsuit that alleged certain BMWs equipped with N20 and N26 engines were prone to experiencing damage and needing costly repairs because of defective timing chains.

BMW owners and lessees may qualify for either a reimbursement program or a prospective repair program.

The reimbursement program provides between 40% and 100% reimbursement for vehicle repairs depending on the mileage at the time of service. No cap exists for repair reimbursement if the repairs were completed at a BMW center. However, repairs done at an independent service center are capped at $3,000 for timing chain modules and oil pump drive chain modules and at $7,500 for engines.

A separate program provides reimbursement for future repairs. Some of these claims will be covered under vehicles’ existing warranties while others will be reimbursed for between 40% and 75% of the total repair costs. Vehicles must be taken to a BMW center.

Expenses are only eligible for reimbursement if the damage was caused by failure of the timing chain or oil pump drive chain modules. Vehicles that have over 100,000 miles or have been in service for over eight years are not eligible.

Check out the details, the list of covered vehicles, and the claim form that must be submitted by the estimated deadline of March 18, 2021.

Navy Federal Credit Union: Unfair NSF Fees

Navy Federal Credit Union has agreed to a $16 million settlement over allegations it charged unfair non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees to its customers.

Navy Federal customers who were charged two or three NSF fees on one transaction between Jan. 28, 2014 and Oct. 27, 2020 may be eligible for cash payments or account credits.

Multiple fees purportedly were incurred when a merchant presented a transaction for payment several times after an initial rejection. With each attempt, Navy Federal allegedly tried to process the payments again, which resulted in an additional NSF fee. This practice of charging the additional NSF fees violated Navy Federal’s own terms of its agreements, according to the suit.

Exact awards will depend upon the number of NSF fees charged and the number of customers who agree to participate in the settlement.

No claim form is required because cash payments or account credits automatically will be distributed, but you have until Feb. 24, 2021 to object to the settlement or to ask to be excluded from it.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them

financial scam targets elderly

A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.

The American Securities Administrators Association’s President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest we’ve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.

With so many scams targeting older adults, it’s essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:

The Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adults’ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.

The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparent’s help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.

Avoid this scam:

  • Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so don’t think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
  • Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchild’s real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
  • Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
  • Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.

“Claim Your Prize Now!” Sweepstakes Scam

The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesn’t clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the “fee.”

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
  • Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
  • Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely aren’t going to randomly win a monetary prize.

Medicare Scam

Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists don’t have to do much research about seniors’ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniors’ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.

 

There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the “Medicare representative” what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.

The “Woodchuck” Scam

A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the “woodchuck” scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.

The scammers will gain seniors’ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.

Mortgage Scam

Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.

The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the home’s information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.

Check Your Credit Regularly

Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.

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The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How Much Should You Spend on Rent?

One of the most exciting parts of becoming an adult is moving out of your old place and starting your own life. However, as is the case with most major life events, moving out comes with a lot of added responsibility. Part of this duty is knowing and understanding your budget when shopping for the perfect apartment, condo, duplex, or rental house. So how much should you really spend on rent?

The 30 Percent Threshold

The first step in deciding how much you should spend on rent is calculating how much rent you can afford. This is done by finding your fixed income-to-rent ratio. Simply put, this is the percentage of your income that is budgeted towards rent.

As a general rule of thumb, allocating 30 percent of your net income towards rent is a good place to start. Government studies consider people who spend more than 30 percent on living expenses to be “cost-burdened,” and those who spend 50 percent or more to be “severely cost-burdened.”

When calculating your income-to-rent ratio, keep in mind that you should be using your total household income. If you live with a roommate or partner, be sure to factor in their income as well to ensure you’re finding a rent range that’s appropriate for your income level.

If you’re still unsure as to how much rent you can afford, consider an affordability calculator. Remember to consult a financial advisor before entering into a lease if you’re unsure if you’ll be able to make rent.

Consider the 50/30/20 Rule

Consider the 50:30:20 Rule

After you’ve set a fixed income-to-rent ratio, consider the 50/20/30 rule to round out your budget. This rule suggests that 50 percent of your income goes to essentials, 20 percent goes to savings, and the remaining 30 percent goes to non-essential, personal expenses. In this case, rent falls under “essentials.” Also included in this category are any expenses that are absolutely necessary, such as utilities, food, and transportation.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which you make $4,000 per month. Under the 50/20/30 rule with a fixed income-to-rent ratio of 30 percent, you have $2,000 (50 percent) per month to spend on essential living expenses. $1,200 (30 percent) goes to rent, leaving you with $800 per month for other necessary expenses such as utilities and food.

Remember to Budget for Additional Expenses

Now that you’ve budgeted for rent and essential utilities, it’s time to make a plan for how you’re going to furnish your apartment. One of the biggest shocks of moving out on your own is how expensive filling a home can be. From kitchen utensils to lightbulbs and everything in between, it can be pricey to make your space perfect.

For the most part, furniture falls under the 30 percent of personal, non-essential expenses. Consider planning ahead before a move and saving for home goods so that you don’t go into major debt when it comes time to move out.

Be on the Lookout for Savings

If your budget is slightly out of reach for your dream apartment, try to nix unnecessary costs to see if you can make it work. Look for ways to cut down on utilities, insurance, groceries, and rent.

Utilities: Water, heat, and electricity are all necessities, but your TV service isn’t. Cut the cord on TV and mobile services that may not serve you and your budget anymore. Consider swapping out your light bulbs for eco-friendly and energy-efficient light bulbs to cut down your electric bill.

Insurance: Instead of paying monthly renters insurance rates, save a fraction of the cost by paying your yearly cost in full. If you have a roommate, ask to share a policy together at a premium rate.

Groceries: Swap your nights out for a homemade meal. You can save up to $832 a year with this simple habit change. When grocery shopping, add up costs as you shop to ensure your budget stays on track.

Rent: One of the best ways to save on rent is to split the bill. Consider getting roommates to save 50 percent or more on your monthly rent.

A lease is not something to be entered into lightly. Biting off more rent than you can chew can lead to unpaid rent, which can damage your credit score and make it harder to find an apartment or buy a home in the future. By implementing these best practices, you’ll hopefully find a balance between finding a place you love and still having room in your budget for a little bit of fun.

Sources: US Census Bureau

The post How Much Should You Spend on Rent? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Newly Renovated, 1915-Built Townhouse in Park Slope Asks $4.4 Million

A four-bedroom townhouse with park views and tons of charm has recently hit the market, and we’re dying to tell you all about it. The listing, brought to market by Compass’ Michael J. Franco, is right next to Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s second largest park, and has plenty of outdoor space (and a rooftop deck to boot).

The townhouse sits in one of Brooklyn’s trendiest, most desirable neighborhoods — Park Slope — with its leafy streets lined with brick and brownstone townhouses, many of which were built near the turn of the 20th century and have been lovingly updated over the decades by young families migrating from Manhattan. Much like its neighboring properties, the 2,600-square-foot townhome at 15 Prospect Park was originally built more than a century ago in 1915 and retains its old-world charm — but has been carefully updated to meet modern standards of living.

beautiful townhouse in prospect park, Brooklyn
Park Slope townhouse on the market for $4.4 million. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

With 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a generously sized living room, and a finished basement, the Brooklyn townhouse also comes with a few rare features for a New York home: ample outdoor space and private parking (that includes a private garage and its own driveway).

The layout is split on three levels, with the first floor housing a large living room and open dining room — both with distinctive pre-war features like classic moldings and arches — and a renovated kitchen that opens up to a lovely terrace.

inside a beautiful pre-war townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Beautiful living space with distinctive pre-war features like arches and moldings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
dining room of a pre-war townhouse in park slope, Brooklyn
Beautiful living space with distinctive pre-war features like arches and moldings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
renovated kitchen in Brooklyn townhouse
The renovated kitchen. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
lovely terrace of a pre-war townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn
The Park Slope townhouse has a lovely terrace. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

The second floor is home to 3 bedrooms and a sizeable landing which is perfect for either a library or a home office, while the third floor is dedicated to the primary bedroom suite and its massive walk-in closet, renovated bath with skylights and soaring ceilings, with a separate sitting area/den. The third level also provides access to the townhouse’s own rooftop deck, which adds more outdoor space and looks like a perfect place to entertain guests.

bedroom of a charming brooklyn townhouse in park slope
Bedroom opens up to Prospect Park views. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
bathroom with skylight in brooklyn townhouse
 Renovated bath with skylights and soaring ceilings. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco
roof deck of a brooklyn townhouse in park slope
Rooftop deck of the $4.4 million townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Image credit: Compass//Michael J. Franco

The property is listed for $4,400,000 with Compass associate real estate broker Michael J. Franco.

More beautiful New York City homes

This Brooklyn Condo Has a Dreamy Backyard that Will Make You Forget You’re in the City
Trophy Apartment Once Owned by Composer Leonard Bernstein Asks $29.5 Million
These 5 Unique Listings Will Remind You of Everything that Makes NYC Real Estate Special
This $16M NYC Penthouse Has Unobstructed Views of Central Park and the Manhattan Skyline

The post Newly Renovated, 1915-Built Townhouse in Park Slope Asks $4.4 Million appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

22 Alternative Uses for Baking Soda

A gentle swap for scouring powder

The best thing about scouring powder is its abrasive action. The worst is the harsh chemical smell. To get all the benefits without the caustic chemicals, use baking soda instead. In most instances, baking soda will work just as well as scouring powder.

Simply clean tiles

For an easy, natural tile cleaner, mix together ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Scrub with a sponge or mop, then rinse. For tough stains, wait 10 to 15 before rinsing.

Love your grout again

Is there anything more satisfying than nice, clean grout? A simple paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water is all you need. Make a new batch each time you plan to attack the space between your tiles.

Remove scuffs

To get rid of scuff marks left on vinyl flooring by dark-soled shoes, rub some baking soda into the spot with a wet rag. The marks will disappear.

Show off crystal-clean crystal

To clean your cut crystal, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water, then dab it onto the crystal with a soft rag. Rinse with water, and buff with a dry, soft cloth.

Supercharge your detergent

To boost the power of your dishwasher detergent, sprinkle a little baking soda in the dishwasher every time you run it. It will also help fight foul odors before they start.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

Know this skillet saver

The teriyaki chicken you made for dinner was delicious, but the sweet sauce left terrible black burns on the bottom of your frying pan. To clean it, first sprinkle the pan with ¼ to ½ cup baking soda, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, and the burned pieces should start to release. When most of the pieces are removed, turn off the heat, dump the water, and wash as usual.

As the water boils, you may want to use a spatula to help the process along. 

Get better-tasting coffee

The secret many of us miss: Make sure you clean your coffee maker regularly. Just add several tablespoons of baking soda to your pot, fill it with water, and run it as usual. Then repeat using only water.

Tackle tough appliances

If you haven’t had time to clean up and now there’s dried-on food stuck in the blades of your blender or food processor, bring baking soda to the rescue. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with 1 cup warm water to the bowl, put the lid on, and let it blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Wash as usual.

Perk up your plastic

Have plastic storage containers with lingering odors? Wash them with hot water plus 2 tablespoons baking soda.

I can’t even count how many times our boys have left something to fester in a water bottle or thermos! Simply fill the container with hot water and ½ cup baking soda, then let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse well and it should be as good as new.

The brightest white cabinets

White kitchen cabinets can be beautiful, but they can also show grease, dust, and dirt more than their darker counterparts. To keep them looking their best, add water to a small amount of baking soda until it’s a runny paste. Scrub the mixture on the cabinets, and then rinse with warm water.

Simple step to a shiny sink

For a spectacularly shiny finish on a stainless steel or aluminum sink, rub a liberal amount of baking soda in a circular motion all over its surface with a damp sponge.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's How to Clean Your Sink

Disposal smarts

Instead of throwing away baking soda when it’s finished its 30-day stint in your fridge, dump it down the garbage disposal with running water. It will keep your disposal fresh, too!

Freshen rugs and upholstery

Sprinkle rugs, couches, and upholstered chairs with baking soda and let it sit an hour before you vacuum. It will keep them cleaner and fresher over the long haul.

Sprinkle some baking soda into the bag of your vacuum cleaner to keep it smelling fresh.

Save money on delicate detergents

Use this homemade solution: Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 cup warm water. Add the solution directly to your standard washing machine, or add it to the soap dispenser of a front loader. The baking soda will clean your clothes without harming their delicate fibers.

All-Natural Fabric Softener: Just add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda to the wash cycle.

Erase wall marks

What’s the easiest way to remove crayon, pencil, ink, and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces? Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge, rub clean, and rinse.

Vinyl siding super-cleaner

From bird poop to tree sap to standard weather damage, vinyl siding can get very dirty. And while brand-name cleaners will no doubt get the job done, they tend to be costly and loaded with toxic chemicals. Instead, combine baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then scrub into your siding with a damp rag until the stains lift. Rinse off with a hose and, if necessary, repeat on stubborn stains.

Lift oil stains

Cleaning oil spots off the driveway is difficult, and the cleaners can be quite expensive. Instead, sprinkle baking soda over the stains, then rub with a wet scrub brush soaked with hot water. The baking soda breaks apart oil particles, so with a little elbow grease, you can have your driveway looking new in no time.

Clean battery leaks

If battery acid leaks inside the compartments of your appliances, there’s no need to throw them away. Simply take a few spoonfuls of baking soda and add water until it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on your battery terminals, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wipe clean. The acid should come off easily.

Must-try for musty books

Place the books in a paper grocery bag with an open box of baking soda. Fold over the bag, staple it shut, and let it sit for a week or two. Your books should smell considerably better when you take them out.

Refresh suitcases

Is your suitcase a bit musty? The night before packing, pour a cup of baking soda in it, close it, and shake. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone.

Get gloves on more easily

Sprinkle a little baking soda into each of your latex gloves, and they’ll stick less when you’re putting them on and taking them off.

If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021

outdoor kitchenbrizmaker/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new appreciation of backyards and other outdoor spaces. With many of us spending hours and hours at home, we’re all looking for places to relax other than the living room sofa and kitchen. If you have a yard with ample space for you and your family, consider yourself blessed.

But in 2021, outdoor space owners might want to consider taking it up a notch with one of the most sought-after features: an outdoor kitchen.

“I looked at this as an investment our family would enjoy for the next 20-plus years,” says lifestyle expert Evette Rios, who recently embarked on her own outdoor kitchen project.

For people who dream of spending even more time cooking outside and enjoying their backyard, an outdoor kitchen is a must. And now’s the time to get to work to ensure your kitchen is ready when the warm, sunny days arrive.

Take a look at the tips below from experts who have successfully completed outdoor kitchen projects of their own.

1. Set a budget

Outdoor kitchens are not a cheap investment, but the price range is really broad. The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,406 to $21,699, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Therefore, there are many ways to tailor your kitchen to your budget.

That being said, you should always prioritize durable materials in an outdoor kitchen.

“Interior furnishings afford a bit more leeway on where you splurge and save,” says HGTV star Laurie March. “But for outdoor kitchens and living spaces, performance and durability—when it comes to cabinetry and appliances—will always be worth it.”

2. Seek out American-made products

Photo by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens

March says COVID-19 has caused major global supply chain interruptions, which has made acquiring building materials and appliances difficult. But sourcing for your outdoor kitchen might be easier if you opt for American-made products.

“I selected Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, which are manufactured in Connecticut. It made the process so much easier,” says March.

She says it wasn’t only about convenience, but also craftsmanship, quality, and the company’s established history.

3. Order appliances early in the planning process

Appliances are what will make your outdoor kitchen shine. But you’ll want to order them sooner rather than later because some companies have long lead times or backordered items.

March advises finalizing appliance picks first and ordering as quickly as possible.

“It’s easier to store them until you’re ready to install rather than have to wait for them to arrive, which can add substantial time to your project,” she says.

4. Design with four seasons in mind

Photo by Chicago Green Design Inc.

Rios highly recommends designing your outdoor kitchen for year-round enjoyment. For example, in her outdoor kitchen, she knew she wanted durable, high-quality cabinets to keep contents dry even in rain or high humidity.

“Heating elements in different zones of the outdoor space are also crucial,” says Rios. “In the kitchen, our pizza oven helps keep us warm during food prep, and the fire pit is a cozy spot for guests to gather.”

If you have a covered outdoor space, she recommends planning and budgeting for ceiling-mounted heat lamps, or invest in one or two free-standing, mobile heating units.

5. Find the right people for the job

March says homeowners should do their homework and hire the right professionals to guide them through their vision, flag any potential pitfalls, and elevate the overall aesthetic.

“For me, bringing a landscape designer onboard brought the whole vision for our outdoor kitchen and yard together,” says March.

Rios says it’s also important to lock in a trusted contractor and installer to ensure the vision and layout for your outdoor kitchen is doable and within your budget.

6. Have fun with color

Photo by DeGoey Designs

Rios says an outdoor kitchen is the perfect space to have fun with color, whether taking cues from the surrounding landscape or going bright and bold.

“Blues and greens can so easily play off of surrounding elements outdoors. I’m over the all-white kitchen, and I think outdoor kitchens are the perfect opportunity to embrace brighter hues,” says Rios, who used a beautiful juniper-green, powder-coat finish on her outdoor kitchen cabinetry.

7. Design based on how you’ll use your space

“Asking yourself the right questions as you think through design options can provide a lot of helpful guidance,” says March. “How do you want to live outdoors? What’s not working with your current or past space, and how could it rise up to meet you a bit better?”

She says it’s also important to consider who’s going to use the outdoor kitchen space. Does it need to be wheelchair-accessible or suitable for pets and kids?

“These details will dictate so much of your design,” says March.

For her space, she envisioned how it could pivot from a space to cook to a space to entertain. The big, open shelf she installed, for example, serves as additional landing space for items she brings out from the indoor kitchen.

The post How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

A great presentation: 6 easy tips for staging your own home

There’s no question that staging your décor is advantageous when you’re trying to sell your home.

The strategic editing and placement of your furnishings can be enormously important to boosting its appeal. In a recent NAR survey, in fact, 77 percent of buyers’ agents agreed staging is important to helping potential buyers envision a given home as their own. Fortunately, conducting your own staging need not be complex; you should be able to mimic professional techniques by following a few easy guidelines:

  • Prioritize by room. The NAR reports you’ll get the most visual impact by staging your living room, primary bedrooms, kitchen and extra bedrooms(s), in that order.
  • De-clutter. Cleaning will be easier after you pack away at least 90 percent of your own décor and personal artifacts. Your goal is to create a minimally decorated space buyers can imagine moving in to.
  • Deep clean. Everything must be groomed, sparkling and odor-free inside and out.
  • Divide and conquer. Plan to remove about half your furniture to give the impression of optimal space. If it’s all unpresentable, use stylish rental pieces or fake “pop-up furniture” for showings. Tip: Wherever possible, move display furniture away from walls (a technique known as “floating”) to create groupings that are tied together visually with area rugs.
  • Accessorize inside and out. Create an atmosphere of airiness, friendliness and cheer by selectively adding new flowers, potted plants, attractive seating and welcome mats outside, perhaps fresh flowers and bowls of fruit inside.
  • Optimize light. Add brighter light bulbs, pull back curtains, clean windows and clean (or perhaps update) light fixtures to add to the overall impression of positivity.

The post A great presentation: 6 easy tips for staging your own home first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

8 Upfront Costs of Buying a House

Looking to buy a home soon? There will be upfront costs of buying a house.

You may have found a house that you like. You may have been approved for a mortgage loan, and have your down payment ready to make an offer. If you think that, at that point, all of the hard work is over, well think again.

In addition to the down payment, which can be significant depending on the price of the property, there are plenty of upfront costs of buying a home. As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough cash to cover these costs. In no particular order, here are 8 common upfront costs of buying a house.

If you are interested in comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. It’s completely free.

What is an upfront cost?

An upfront cost, as the name suggests and in terms of buying a house, is out of pocket money that you pay after you have made an offer on a property. They are also referred to as closing costs and cover fees such as inspection fees, taxes, appraisal, mortgage lender fees, etc. As a home buyer, these upfront costs should not come to you as a surprise.

What are the upfront costs of buying a house?

Upfront cost # 1: Private mortgage insurance cost.

If your down payment is less than 20% of the home purchase price, then your mortgage lender will charge you a PMI (private mortgage insurance). A PMI is an extra fee to your monthly mortgage payment that really protects the lender in case you default on your loan. Again, depending on the size of the loan, a PMI can be significant. So if you know you won’t have 20% or more down payment, be ready pay an extra fee in addition to your monthly mortgage payments.


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Upfront cost #2: inspection costs.

Before you finalize on a house, it’s always a good idea to inspect the house for defects. In fact, in some states, it is mandatory. Lenders will simply not offer you a mortgage loan unless they see an inspection report. Even if it is not mandatory in your state, it’s always a good idea to inspect the home. The inspection cost is well worth any potential defects or damages you might encounter.

Inspection fee can cost you anywhere from $300-$500. And it is usually paid during the inspection. So consider this upfront cost into your budget.

Upfront cost # 3: loan application fees.

Some lenders may charge you a fee for applying for/processing a loan. This fee typically covers things like credit check for your credit score or appraisal.

Upfront cost # 4: repair costs.

Unless the house is perfect from the very first time you occupy it, you will need to do some repair. Depending on the condition of the house, repair or renovating costs can be quite significant. So consider saving up some money to cover some of these costs.

Upfront cost # 5: moving costs.

Depending on how far you’re moving and/or how much stuff you have, you may be up for some moving costs. Moving costs may include utilities connections, cleaning, moving

Upfront cost # 6: Appraisal costs.

Appraisal costs can be anywhere from $300-$500. Again that range depends on the location and price of the house. You usually pay that upfront cost after the inspection or before closing.

Upfront cost # 7: Earnest Money Costs

After you reach a mutual acceptance for the home, in some states, you may be required to pay an earnest money deposit. This upfront costs is usually 1% to 3% of the home purchase price. The amount you pay in earnest money, however, will be subtracted from your closing costs.

Upfront cost # 8: Home Associations Dues

If you’re buying a condo, you may have to pay homeowners association dues. Homeowners association dues cover operation and maintenance fees. And you will pay one month’s dues upfront at closing.

In conclusion, when it comes to buying a house, there are several upfront costs you will need to consider. Above are some of the most common upfront costs of buying a house.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

MORE ARTICLES ON BUYING A HOUSE:

10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid

How Much House Can I afford

5 Signs You’re Better Off Renting

7 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a House

How to Save for a House


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>

The post 8 Upfront Costs of Buying a House appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Painless Steps

If you want to whip your finances into shape, here’s a good New Year’s resolution: improving your credit score.

A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.

This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there aren’t any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps

Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Here’s how to build good credit in 10 steps.

1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports

It’s essential to monitor your credit reports, especially if you received a hardship agreement from a lender due to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act rules, lenders are supposed to report your account as paid in full while the agreement is in effect, as long as you weren’t already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.

Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.) Make sure you access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, rather than one of the many websites that offer “free” credit scores but will make you put down your credit card number to sign up for a trial. File a dispute with the bureaus if you find anything you think is inaccurate or any accounts you don’t recognize.

Your credit reports won’t show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesn’t hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.

Pro Tip

If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.

2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month

Yeah, you knew we were going to say this: Paying your bills on time is the No. 1 thing you can do to build good credit. Your payment history determines 35% of your score, more than any other credit factor.

Set whatever bills you can to autopay for at least the minimums to avoid missing payments. You can always pay extra if you can afford it.

A strong payment history takes time to build. If you’ve made late payments, they’ll stay on your credit reports for seven years. The good news is, they do the most damage to your score in the first two years. After that, the impact starts to fade.

3. Establish Credit, Even if You’ve Made Mistakes

You typically need a credit card or loan to build a credit history. (Sorry, but all those on-time rent and utility payments are rarely reported to the credit bureaus, so they won’t help your score.)

But if you have bad credit or you’re a credit newbie, getting approved for a credit card or loan is tough. Look for cards that are specifically marketed to help people start or rebuild credit. Store credit cards, which only let you make purchases at a specific retailer, can also be a good option.

4. Open a Secured Card if You Don’t Qualify for a Regular Card

Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you can’t get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.

After about a year of making your payments on time, you’ll typically qualify for an unsecured line of credit. Just make sure the card issuer you choose reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Look for a card with an annual fee of no more than $35. Some secured card options we like (and no, we’re not getting paid to say this):

  • Discover it Secured
  • OpenSky Secured Visa Card
  • Secured Mastercard from Capital One
A woman checks her credit card balance while on the phone.

5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It

Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. That’s credit score speak for the percentage of credit you’re using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.

If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, you’ll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.

The downside of a higher credit limit: You’ll have more money to spend that isn’t really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you don’t add to your balance.

Pro Tip

Don’t believe the myth that carrying a small credit card balance helps your credit score. Paying off your balance in full each month is best for your score, plus it saves you money on interest.

6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans

Tackling credit card debt helps your credit score a lot more than paying down other debts, like a student loan or mortgage. The reason? Your credit utilization ratio is determined exclusively by your lines of credit.

Bonus: Paying off credit card debt first will typically save you money, because credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt.

7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active

Provided you aren’t paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once you’ve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.

Make a purchase at least once every three months on the account, as credit card companies often close inactive accounts. Then pay it off in full.

8. Apply for New Credit Selectively

When you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry, which usually drops your score by a few points. So avoid applying frequently for new credit cards, as this can signal financial distress.

But if you’re in the market for a mortgage or loan, don’t worry about multiple inquiries. As long as you limit your shopping to a 45-day window, credit bureaus will treat it as a single inquiry, so the impact on your score will be minimal.

FROM THE CREDIT FORUM
Experian Boost
10/25/19 @ 12:14 PM
Leslie Kay
Secured credit cards
1/5/21 @ 2:53 PM
Belinda Carmichael
FICO Score: What is it? How is it calculated? How can you raise yours?
11/11/20 @ 5:29 AM
A Penny Pincher's Guide
See more in Credit or ask a money question

9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help

If you’re struggling with credit card debt, consolidating your credit card debt with a loan could be a good option. In a nutshell, you take out a loan to wipe out your credit card balances.

You’ll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus you’ll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you can’t get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isn’t a good option.)

By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, you’ll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.

Many debt consolidation loans require a credit score of about 620. If your score falls below this threshold, work on improving your score for a few months before you apply for one.

10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective

All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While it’s important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:

  • Your credit score isn’t a report card on the state of your finances. It simply measures how risky of a borrower you are. Having an emergency fund, saving for retirement and earning a decent living are all important to your finances — but these are all things that don’t affect your credit score.
  • Lenders look at more than your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio, decent down payment and steady paycheck all increase your odds of approval when you’re making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
  • Don’t focus on your score if you can’t pay for necessities. If you’re struggling and you have to choose between paying your credit card vs. paying your rent, keeping food on the table or getting medical care, paying your credit card is always the lower priority. Of course, talk to your creditors if you can’t afford to pay them, as they may have options.

Focus on your overall financial picture, and you’ll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.

Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com